College Admissions – How to Respond to Quirky Essay Topics
While some college admissions essays still ask the typical, “Tell us about yourself,” or “Why do you want to attend XYZ?” several are now asking quirky essay questions. Take the University of Chicago, well-known for its quirky essay topics, for instance. It poses questions like, “What do you think about Wednesday?” and, “Write an essay somehow inspired by super-huge mustard.”
The University of Chicago is not alone in this, and the trend seems to be that this type of question is what more colleges are leaning toward to make themselves stand out from the crowd. These questions certainly have more people talking, but if you are trying to write your essay questions without the help of a college counselor, you may be left wondering how to handle such outlandish topics. I’ve posted a few tips for those beginning to think about before the summer application process begins and for those looking for a little fun to liven up the mid-winter blues.
- Think about what the college wants to know about you. Yes, there is a point to those quirky college essay questions. The colleges want to know something about you. They already know they have an outstanding science department or that they are conveniently located or have a beautiful campus so questions asking why you would want to attend XYZ University just don’t cut it. They want to know about you. What makes you tick? What unique, creative way do you look at the world? How do you solve problems?
- Think about what you want the college to know about you. Quirky questions can receive quirky answers that are fun and very unique. Making an admissions officer smile can be just the ticket to getting into your top schools; however, being too off your rocker can cause them to take notice in a negative way. You want them to know a positive aspect of your life, your sense of humor, intelligence, curiosity, adventure or winsome spirit not about the horrendous family secret that just should not be shared on a first meeting.
- Watch your length. Generally essays are about 700 words, but now some colleges are asking for 25 word essays, others for 25o characters. Be sure to follow any specific guidelines given.
- Watch your word usage. While quirky essay topics are fun, you still want to be sure your responses are grammatically correct unless your specific writing style demands otherwise, but you should still demonstrate a mastery of language usage. Things like punctuation, spelling, and grammar are always in style no matter how offbeat the topic. Also, definitely stay away from cliches which can be the bee in a bonnet of any college admissions counselor, especially those hoping for unique essays.
- Use your own voice. With quirky questions there are very few “right” or “wrong” answers. Often the biggest thing holding you back is the fear of showing who you really are. Be free to find yourself and respond in a way that others may not immediately think of, and then be sure to have someone, or several someones, provide constructive feedback before submitting your quirky essay response.
Quirky college essay topics can be fun if you allow them to be. Respond freely, in your own voice with the message you want the admissions officer to receive about you, and let the creativity flow!
Kerri Martin is a regular writer here at Self Reliance Works. She specializes in helping students get ready for higher education through test prep and application submission assistance at The Right Path. Kerri works with students local and international students and their families both in person and online. For more quirky essay topics click here.